We spent the last week staying with my Mum for half term. My husband stayed home, and for six whole days I had sole parenting charge of the kids. And even with a few days where I felt like death and spent several hours in bed feeling sorry for myself, well it was still quite a nice, quite an easy week.
It did very much feel like I had the parenting responsibility by myself, but having my parents around definitely took off the pressure hugely.
My daughter took her first ever swimming classes, a crash course for beginners, half an hour every morning. It’s the first time she’s ever done anything like that, classes taught outside of the familiar setting of school. She loved and them, and was great at listening to and following her teacher. Wasn’t even slightly phased about us leaving her to it. Her cousin was in her class too, and it was brilliant starting every morning with a whole group of family, her grandparents, auntie, cousins and brother all sharing drinks and snacks and chat in the cafe after class. My brother, sister-in-law and their children live in the same town as my parents and see each other several times most weeks I think. I couldn’t help but feel jealous hearing them talking, arranging their weekly activities together.
We are now back home, and my mother-in-law and her partner have made the epic journey down to us, and at the beginning of their two and a half week stay. Yesterday I was working a very late shift at work, so headed up to bed for a couple of hours for a preparatory rest in the afternoon. Hearing the kids downstairs, full of laughs and chatter, playing happily with their Grandma, it made it a lot easier for me to get some guilt free rest time. I even managed to read an entire novel yesterday. I can’t remember the last novel I actually managed to read.
When I had my first child my village seemed pretty small. My frail grandmother moved next door to my mother two weeks after my daughter’s birth, making it then (and still) very hard for my mum to get away to visit us. My mother-in-law lives as far away as it is possible to, whilst still vaguely living in the same country, and has big commitments keeping her there also. I found myself becoming progressively more isolated from the fellow mothers I had met through pregnancy and those early baby days, whilst that nuclear bomb baby of mine didn’t follow any of their rules, and my decisions kept veering away from theirs until the shared ground seemed to fall away completely beneath me. Due to the nature of medical training many of the close friends I did hold dear soon moved on to new hospitals, and whilst still available for much needed Facebook reassurance, it wasn’t possible to meet for coffee and moaning anymore. Several of my best friends still don’t have children, and unfortunately my life just changed so dramatically, so quickly, that they just couldn’t understand my life anymore. My village came to look like it consisted of me and my husband, and a whole lot of tumbleweed.
We have chosen to live where we do, a fairly inaccessible corner or the country, two hours from the nearest motorway and on the way to nowhere. We could leave. I could move back home, to the town I grew up, my parents and brother down the road. My work is highly in demand and I could probably pick where I wanted to work. Housing is much cheaper there, it would be much nearer London and other family.
But I love my job,my hospital, the family that I work with. I love our house, the corner we have carved out for our children to grow up in. And I love the incredible countryside that my children will call their home.
I have started trying to ask to ask for help more, I really have. Unfortunately my attempts have not been particularly successful which does make me less keen to ask again. This last week surrounded by family has definitely made me question my choices, particularly whilst I sit there yearning for baby number three, that would definitely feel much more possible with a solid support network around me.
And then there is this:
Do you need a village when this is your beach???